Lili Boulanger was a French composer of the early twentieth century, and the first female composer to win the coveted Prix de Rome competition. Born in Paris, Boulanger’s talent was apparent by the age of two when it was discovered that she had perfect pitch. Her parents were both musicians, and encouraged their daughter’s musical education. From the age of 5 she accompanied her elder sister Nadia to classes at the Paris Conservatoire, and sat in on classes on music theory and organ. In 1912 she competed in the Prix de Rome but collapsed during her performance due to illness. She returned the following year at the age of 19 to win the composition prize with her cantata Faust et Hélène.
Boulanger died at the age of 24, but left a number of remarkable pieces that demonstrate her strong abilities as a composer and particularly as an inventive orchestrator. Her work was innovative, in the vein of Fauré and Debussy, and was particularly influential to a generation of French composers after her, including Arthur Honneger.